What's the most reliable type of car?

Is a small hatchback more dependable than a luxury saloon? Will an MPV break down more than a sports car? We reveal the classes that are the least, and most, reliable...

Reliability survey
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Claire Evans
22 Jun 2019 06:40

There's an old saying that if there’s more kit on a car, there’s more to go wrong, but does this apply to different classes of cars? 

To find out, we've examined data on more than 18,200 of cars supplied by owners who took part in our 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey and split it out into 12 different car classes.

At a glance, the old adage could be true – the reliability rating for large and luxury saloons and SUVs is around 10% lower than those for city cars and small SUVs.  However, electric cars proved the least reliable of all, so there could be more to it than that. 

Read on to find out which are the most – and least – dependable car classes.

Tell us about your car in the 2019 What Car? reliability survey and you could win £250

12. Electric cars

Reliability rating  84.2%

It's a real tale of two halves when it comes to electric cars – the previous-generation Nissan Leaf has an almost impeccable reliability record with a score of 99.7% and just 3% of cars suffering faults concerning the bodywork. 

Nissan Leaf

In contrast the Tesla Model S scored a dismal 50.9%, with owners telling us their cars had issues with bodywork, electrics suspension and interior trim. 

These polar opposite performances by different models put EVs at the bottom of the table for dependability.

See the full reliability chart for EVs and hybrid cars

Read our full Nissan Leaf review or get a great deal on a Leaf

11. Large SUVs

Reliability rating  86.5%

The previous version of Toyota's RAV4 was the best performing large SUV with a score of 99.6%. Only 4% of owners reported a problem and the only area concerned was engine electrics. 

Toyota RAV4 2.5

At the other end of the spectrum, Ford's Edge let the side down with 54% of cars suffering a fault. Bodywork was the most frequently cited problem area, followed by air-con (21%) and non-engine electrics. 

See the full reliability chart for large and luxury SUVs

Read our full Toyota RAV4 review or get a great deal on a RAV4

10. Luxury SUVs

Reliability rating  87.6%

The 2013-2018 BMW X5 was the most dependable luxury SUV with a score of 98.3%. Only 10% of diesel examples developed a problem, with these split evenly between the engine, fuel system and wheels/tyres. 


The full-fat Range Rover didn't fare as well, with around half of owners reporting a fault. Its 67.3% reliability rating reflects the fact that there were lots of non-engine electrical issues and problems with the suspension. 

See the full reliability chart for large and luxury SUVs

Read our full BMW X5 review or get a great deal on an X5

9. Luxury cars

Reliability rating  88.7%

When it comes to some luxury cars, it's best to buy a model that's been on sale for a couple of years as previous-generation cars seem to suffer fewer faults than the latest versions. 

The best luxury car for reliability was the 2009-2016 Mercedes E-Class with a score of 92.4%. Non-engine electrics and the battery were the most common complaints.  

Mercedes E-Class

And the latest Jaguar XF also proved less dependable than the previous version, scoring 81.9% compared with the older model's 91.6%. Again non-engine electrics were the most common problem, this time followed by bodywork and interior trim issues.   

See the full reliability chart for luxury cars

Read our full Mercedes E-Class review or get a great deal on an E-Class

Next: more car classes rated for reliability >

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